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Cole principal spearheads school supply drive to help schoolchildren affected by Hurricane Harvey

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Sept. 15, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Children in a South Texas community affected by Hurricane Harvey are receiving school supplies thanks to the generosity of teachers, students and families in the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District.

A shipment of school supplies collected at the Cole Middle/High School campus, located at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, was delivered by Cole Principal Dr. Isabell Clayton to Ingleside, a town of nearly 9,400 residents near the Texas Gulf Coast Sept. 9.

Ingleside, located 17 miles north of Corpus Christi, was one of several communities on the Texas coast hit hard by Hurricane Harvey Aug. 25. The Category 4 storm caused extensive property damage with 130 mph winds, heavy rainfall and flooding.

Clayton and Lori Fuller, instructional design coach at Cole, unloaded the donated school supplies at the Ingleside Independent School District administration building. Helping to unload the supplies were two Ingleside school district employees, including Dr. Jill Blankenship, an elementary school principal, and her two sons.

The school supplies will be distributed among students from all five of the Ingleside district’s campuses, from elementary to high school. Ingleside ISD serves nearly 2,200 students.

When Hurricane Harvey struck, Clayton said she called Blankenship, a friend of hers, and brought up the idea of organizing a school supply drive at Cole to benefit the students in Ingleside.

“I called her and said, ‘I’m sorry about what happened. We want to help. We know that the kids might need school supplies so how about we do a school supply drive,’” Clayton said. “She was very excited and said yes.”

After talking to Blankenship, Clayton immediately put out information about the school supply drive to Cole teachers, who started to bring items to school.

About a week later, Clayton reached out to the public and parents, posting information about the drive on the Fort Sam Houston ISD website and Facebook page and including it in an email to parents about the open house held at Cole Sept. 5. During the open house, a table to collect school supplies was set up by the Cole High School Student Council.

Clayton said she estimates that members of the Cole community donated school supplies totaling several hundreds of dollars to the students in Ingleside, filling up the Suburban she drove in. The donated school supplies included notebooks, folders, markers, pencils, pens, index cards, construction paper, crayons, art and math supplies, backpacks and decorations for bulletin boards.

Additional donations included $400 worth of gift cards for H-E-B and Wal-Mart, which will be given to families of schoolchildren.

Blankenship said she is thankful for the outpouring of support from Clayton and members of the Cole school community.

“I am very humbled, blessed and grateful for their generosity,” Blankenship said. “That goes along with Dr. Clayton’s character. She goes above and beyond. She’s definitely an angel for sure.”

Blankenship said Hurricane Harvey caused $8 million in damages to Ingleside school facilities. The campus Blankenship is principal of, Blaschke-Sheldon Elementary School, had flood damage in the main part of the building, floor damage and damage to the outside of the school.

Ingleside has been repairing and cleaning up its school campuses damaged by the storm. The district planned to resume classes Sept. 21.

Because of the school donations provided by teachers, students and parents at Cole, Blankenship said parents in Ingleside will not have to worry about spending money on new school supplies.

“That’s one less thing for parents trying to get their lives together to worry about,” she said.

The donated school supplies will also benefit displaced students from surrounding communities who are enrolling at Ingleside schools. Schools in Port Aransas, Aransas Pass and Rockport sustained major damage from the storm and will not be able to hold classes for the time being.

“We expect an influx of students and we will welcome those kids with open arms,” Blankenship said. “They deserve a safe place to go to school. Ingleside and the surrounding towns have taken a major hit, and we want to make our district helpful and supportive and serve as a resource for the community.”

Clayton said schoolchildren at Cole can relate to what the students in Ingleside are going through.

“Our military families know what it’s like to experience change, transition and sometimes tragedy, and so they were very generous at what they gave,” she said. “They did a great job. It just tells me that I know that they are going to help out when needed and that they are a compassionate, caring community.”